After last week’s Mike Clark Transcription exercise, we’re going to look at ways to break down his apparently complex method and explore how we can develop our own linear rhythms.
Firstly, we need to be aware of the Core Groove: namely the essential elements of each bar with all of the embellishments and ghost notes removed; the basic message that Clark is trying to convey.
Here’s Bar 1 of last week’s exercise:
We can strip this back to a more simplified version (The Core Groove):
This bar is much easier to grasp and will probably be closer to the phrase that Clark is singing in his head as he plays. Below are all 14 bars of last week’s video transcription broken down into their simplest form:
Firstly, work through each bar slowly, then start playing the more complex original phrase, making sure to continue singing the Core Groove in your head.
Stripping back intricate grooves in this way will not only help you un crack the code of these complex beats, it will also help you to improvise linear patterns of your own. To do this, start by looping a simple groove. Once that feels comfortable, add a ghost note or embellishment. Continue to add more complexity without losing emphasis on the original groove. The key is for your patterns to sound complex and intricate whilst still retaining the groove of the initial simpler pattern.
As I cross the border from Canada into the U.S. for the start of a 6 week American tour, I’m hoping to use the long journeys for some overdue transcription work, starting with a drummer I’ve been a fan of since my early teens: Mike Clark.
First coming to prominence with Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters in the 1970′s, Clark pioneered a revolutionary school of linear drumming (i.e. no two voices hitting simultaneously) influencing many of the modern day greats, such as Zigaboo Modeliste, Stanton Moore, Bill Stewart and others.
On a recent YouTube browsing session I came across a video titled ‘Mike Clark – The Godfather of Linear Funk‘ (a title I doubt Clark takes particularly seriously). The improvisation (from 0:58) demonstrates his ethos perfectly so I thought a transcription was in order.
- Keep the right hand on the hi-hat and left hand on the snare unless otherwise stated.
- Play each bar on a loop until it feels comfortable and grooves well. Work through each bar individually until you feel confident enough to play the whole page continually.
- I’ve divided the snare drum hits into three volume categories. A small note-head indicates a ghost note, a normal sized note-head indicates a medium mezzo forte dynamic and an accented note should be played at a louder forte with rim shot. Executing these three volume levels correctly is vital for achieving the Mike Clark sound.
Next time, we’ll look at ways of coming up with our own Clark esq. rhythms by understanding the ‘Core Groove’.
Here’s a short phrase I came up with after revisiting some of my triplet/gospel video lessons from a few years back. It’s a simple 3 beat phrase consisting of 5 notes. I use it a lot in Jazz as an explosive Billy Cobham style phrase but it also works as a fill for groove or gospel playing. See the video at the bottom for my attempt.
Today i’m looking back to a video lesson I posted over 5 years ago (suddenly feeling very old) but remains the most popular video on my YouTube channel with over 140,000 views. I was inspired to develop this gospel, linear style through monsters such as Eric Moore, Chris Coleman and Mike Johnston who I recommend you check out.
This lick is based on a simple Paradiddle-diddle but with the last note replaced with a kick:
Now try orchestrating it around the kit. These are two of my favourites:
Here’s my painfully unconfident explanation from back in 2008: